July 23, 2014

NECC Meningitis Outbreak in Tennessee Grows to 39 Illnesses, 6 Deaths

Tennessee Meningitis Outbreak

Tennesse has 39 CDC-confirmed cases of meningitis associated with epidrual steroid injections.

Evidence is mounting that vials of steroids contaminated with fungus, primarily Exserohilum, were distributed by New England Compounding Center, a compounding pharmacy in Mass.  The CDC has confirmed over 100 cases of fungal meningitis caused by epidural injections of the contaminated steroids, and health officials are expecting many more cases.

Tennessee leads all states in the multi-state fungal meningitis outbreak with six deaths and 39 illnesses. Attorney Fred Pritzker has been contacted by many patients who had epidural steroid injections containing preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate made by NECC. “Patients have been injured and killed in this outbreak and preliminary evidence appears to link the outbreak to this product. If so, NECC needs to be held accountable,” said Pritzker, who represents patients and their families nationwide and is gathering evidence for epidural meningitis lawsuits against New England Compounding Center.

Exserohilum is the primary fungal infection affecting patients in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Because Exserohilum is a fungus that rarely causes human infections, the CDC has convened national experts in fungal infections to provide state health departments and health providers with treatment recommendations and other guidance. The currently recommended anti-fungal treatment medications are active against Exserohilum.

The Tennessee Department of Health is reporting that it has evidence that the incubation period may be longer than previously reported. Initial outbreak reports stated that it could take 28 days for onset of meningitis symptoms. An analysis of additional case studies suggests that a more accurate range appears to be six to 42 days for our patients. Some experts believe vigilance for up to three months will be necessary. The average incubation period in Tennessee cases thus far is 16 days.

Patients who received injections from potentially contaminated lots of methylprednisolone acetate from New England Compounding Center should pay close attention to any new symptoms of headache (either new or worsening), fever, painful or stiff neck, dizziness or falling, worsening back pain at the injection site, or other unexpected pain or numbness. Many of the meningitis victims also had strokes.

Fungal meningitis can be severe and can cause strokes. It occurs when the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord are infected with a fungus. People who are experiencing early symptoms can be treated with antifungal drugs, but those medicines can cause kidney problems and other serious side effects. They can’t be used used to prevent the onset of illness; only in people who have signs of an infection.

Three locations in Tennessee received methylprednisolone acetate from NECC: Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center in Nashville, PCA Pain Care Center in Oak Ridge, TN and Specialty Surgery Center in Crossville.

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